Iron Mountain opens Canadian data centres

After years of offering online backup services for organizations in the U.S., data protection specialist Iron Mountain has finally made it possible for its Canadian customers to get remote backup as well.

Last month it officially opened a 24-server data centre in Montreal and a twin in Toronto, launching desktop and server backup offerings for customers with Windows-based PCs and servers.

David Kubick, Iron Mountain’s vice-president of global channels and alliances, said the data centres took about two months to build and are identical in design and operation to facilities the company has in the U.S. However, here they are co-located in a Bell Canada data facility, whereas in the U.S. they are in Iron Mountain-owned buildings.

Each Canadian site, which backs up the other, has 24 HP ProLiant DL380 servers, each with Intel 1.85Ghz quad-core processors, running Windows 2003 Server. The servers, which each has 4GB of RAM, are connected by Gigabit Ethernet through Cisco Catalyst switches, with virtual LANs to separate internal network segments. Between the two sites is a 100MB per second Ethernet over WAN connection for data replication.

Each site also has 42TB of disk storage in HP DL320 arrays in RAID 5 configurations.

The centres are run by custom-made management software. They also follow best practices established by the parent, Kubick said, including redundancy and locating centres away from flood zones and fault lines.

“We’re not necessarily competing with the big glass house server providers,” he said. “It’s really more distributed data at the edge of the network, at the edge of the enterprise, and that’s really where our sweet spot is.”

Although modest in size, Kubick said the configuration can scale to 15,000 per user pair for PC backup.

In 10 years the company has pulled in 300,000 subscribers to the PC backup offering. Kubick said it is expecting the number of Canadian subscribers to reach five figures, although he didn’t say by when.

A recent IDC Canada suggested Canadians are under-investing in business continuity technology, including that which handles backup and recovery. Analyst David Senf said 55 per cent of those IDC surveyed said they have experienced a business disruption, for example, but not one that caused a significant business loss. As a result, perhaps, they haven’t got a reasonable plan to prevent future disasters.

“There’s a disconnect between their understanding and knowing they need to put solutions in place for business continuity and actually going ahead and doing something about it,” Senf said.

Founded in 1951, Iron Mountain has more than 100,000 corporate customers and operations in North America, Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Rim. It came to Canada when it merged in 2000 with Pierce Leahy Archives, at the time the world’s second largest records management company.

Until the data centres opened, in Canada it offered only secure data destruction and storage of physical data and tapes in 19 facilities across the country. However, Daryl Westman, Iron Mountain’s vice-president for central Canada, noted that many customers had to ship their tapes over long distances, which created security issues. While the company has offered online data storage and recovery services for several years, a combination of regulatory requirements and demands by Canadians that private data be kept in this country prevented it from offering an over-the-border service here. Eventually customer demand led Iron Mountain to set up the Montreal and Toronto data centres.

The services offered, Connected Backup for PCs and LiveVault, place software agents on desktops and servers respectively. Pricing depends on the amount of data stored and whether the customer wants incremental or continuous backup.

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